Dotty Robbins and I had a 99% sure White-winged tern at Top Sail Hill Preserve State Park in Walton County today. The bird was feeding on Campbell Lake. The site is number #25 on the Panhandle section of the Florida Birding Trail. The bird was seen around 1800 CDT. It was observed feeding for several minutes. I'm pretty tired right now from days on end of birding from dawn to dusk, so I won't get into it much right now. Basically, the bird had the shape and impression of a Black tern. It was very pale under the wings and completely white on the underside. The head had a black spot and black around the nape. The upper wing was pale excpet for the darker outer primaries. After looking at the Sibley Guide I decided the bird was a dead ringer for the first winter White-winged tern. I actually had a chance to talk to Sibley about separating White-winged and Black terns (and Whiskered terns) in basic plumage (thanks to Jeff Bouton.) The lack of black spot at the shoulder and lack of dark anywhere underneath was good for WW. The black on the nape apparently helps to eliminate Whiskered. I'll do more research tomorrow.
Why is it that everyone I talked to says that White-winged tern looks more like Forster's tern than Black? That's like saying a Northern cardinal looks like a Summer tanager. Why, because they're both red? The structure of White-winged is not that similar to Forster's tern. I never even considered Forter's tern because it was clearly (by impression) a Black tern. Oops, make that White-winged. I really need to sleep more on these birding trips.
Of course we didn't get a photo, so it won't be a state record. Maybe someone can get out there and photograph it. We may or may not be back there tomorrow, but we still won't have a camera.
Good night all,
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